Out of options, Sheriff to apply for vehicle buyback

Chad Frey
The Kansan

The Harvey County Sheriff's Department has a nearly brand new Ford Explorer that cannot be driven — the vehicle has a computer/software problem that prevents its use. 

Harvey County Sheriff's Department

And has been preventing its use for months. 

The vehicle has only 4,000 miles on it, and has been sitting at a dealership for repair for about four months.  

"It seems ridiculous that we have a brand new vehicle that we have put a lot of money in that is sitting out on a dealer lot, " said Shawn Chapman, Harvey County Undersheriff. " ... It has a computer issue and there is no resolution in sight."

The result, in the short term, is some vehicles running 24 hours a day and deputies having to jockey vehicles. The department has new vehicles on order, with desired delivery in July or August. Those vehicles were due last month, but supply chain issues have caused new vehicle shortages. 

The vehicles due in this summer include three Explorer SUVs, one for use by a K-9 vehicle. 

The car starts, and runs, but will go into "limp" mode when deputies try and accelerate — a mode that will not allow the car to exceed more than about 25 miles per hour. Limp mode engages when a vehicle sensor detects a component is  malfunctioning. The idea is  to modify the vehicle's acceleration and shifting capabilities, to allows drivers to navigate vehicles home, or to a service station.

The car has been sitting at a dealership since February. Ford technicians installed new computer modules and have worked on the vehicle. At this point, the only avenue left for the car is to apply for a Ford buy-back program that would essentially refund the purchase price of the vehicle. 

That would mean going out and shopping for another vehicle — in the middle of a shortage. 

"There is no guarantee they will buy the vehicle back," Chapman said. "If they do, the idea would to search and find something on the lot that is a pursuit vehicle to snatch on too. The problem is supply and demand. There is not a big supply right now and demand is high."

So far, the work falls under warranty. However, there are uncovered costs — equipment like light bars, radios and electrical upgrades to the vehicle performed at the expense of the sheriff's department are not covered — and if Ford buys the Explorer back, there will be an expense associated with stripping those things out of the vehicle. 

Chapman said he is not sure what the buy back will be, but believes it will be for the purchase price of the vehicle.

"If we have to pay $3,000 or $4,000 more for a vehicle, that is not right, either," said Randy Hague, county commissioner.